February 19, 2017

Signs of Spring

I have a love-hate relationship with spring. My allergies hate it but in every other way I love spring. Spring is a rebirth. The sun comes out a bit more, snow starts melting, rivers fill up, trees come back to life and flowers start blooming. There are a lot of destinations where you can enjoy the signs of spring one of which is Europe.

Here are a few of my favorite European signs of spring!

Trees bloom and push green leaves,

Spring Trees in London England

Spring Trees by celesteh, on Flickr

Driving is a joy as the wild flowers crop up,

Wildflowers in Loire Valley France

Wildflowers in Loire Valley by celesteh, on Flickr

But its not just wild flowers. Spring brings color popping up everywhere!

Daffodils in Kensington Gardens England

Daffodils in Kensington Gardens... by Paul-in-London, on Flickr

Which brings me to one of my fondest spring memories. Back in April 1984 my husband and I were in London England wandering through Kensington Gardens and were awestruck by all the daffodils coming up, literally everywhere, all while it was ever so lightly snowing. If you’ve never been to London in spring, I highly recommend it!

Tulips in the Flevopolder Holland

Tulips in the Flevopolder by ingo.ronner, on Flickr

Tulips are definitely a sign of spring and there isn’t a better place to enjoy them than in Holland. In the small town of Lisse, just south of Amsterdam, is the biggest and best known Tulip festival. From mid-March to late May Holland celebrates everything about the tulip. The tulips stretch for miles and miles making such a beautiful sight!

Along with flowers comes better weather which pushes people outside. Whether its for the Paris marathon or a walk in the park, people just start moving more. This must be why it is also the start of festival season!

Both Munich and Stuttgart Germany have Spring Festivals that are similar to Oktoberfest but much smaller. Those Germans like to celebrate their beer at every season, don’t they?

Almond Blossoms near Neustadt Germany

Almond Blossoms near Neustadt Germany courtesy of Neustadt a.d. Weinstrasse, Tourist Kongress und Sallbau GmbH

But the Germans don’t just celebrate beer! The first wine festival of the year, the Almond Blossom Festival, is held in Gimmeldingen every March and April. During spring, the entire area is bathed in a beautiful pink hue from the blossoming Almond trees. Gimmeldingen is in the Rheinland-Pfalz region and is also known for its wine so don’t get so taken by the blossoms that you forget to have some of the local wine!

Trimming White Asparagus in Mannheim Germany

Trimming White Asparagus in Mannheim Germany by Andrew Cowin

One of my favorite times to visit Germany is during Spargelsaison (White Asparus Season). This spring event is brought on by the warming sun which brings White Asparugus to villages all over the country! Once only eaten by nobility, today the lovely asparagus is enjoyed by everyone. There is even a Baden Asparagus Route where you can enjoy a lovely drive through the countryside providing most of the asparagus plus encounter an Aspargus Festival or two! Maybe you’ll run into the Asparagus King or be the champion asparagus peeler!

These are a few of my favorite signs of spring,

What are yours??

 

 

This post is part of the spring-themed blog carnival hosted at Traveling with Sweeney.
Be sure to check out all the spring related posts!

Germany, Bavaria, Munich – Need I Say More?

If you’ve read many of the post here, you know how much I adore Germany and especially Bavaria!

I have shared with you how much I enjoy small Bavarian villages (like Mittenwald), Kind Ludwig’s Bavarian castles, beer and my joy at visiting Bamberg with all its breweries. Yes, I’ve probably bored you by going over the top in Bavaria, Bavaria How do I love Thee and if pushed to pick a favorite it would be Bavaria.

Munich Skyline Bavaria Germany

Munich Skyline by BAYERN TOURISMUS Marketing GmbH

In looking back, I realized I’ve never told you about one of my favorite cities in Bavaria – Munich. What is it about Bavaria’s capital city that makes it so wonderful and why should you visit?

Here are 11 reasons to visit Munich!

  1. Galleries full of European art, Bavarian sculptures and can be found in the many Pinakotheken (Picture Galleries) that call Munich home. The oldest is the Alte Pinakotheke and the newest is the Moderne Pinakotheke with the Neue Pinakotheke in the middle. Together these galleries hold so much of interest they will keep any art lover busy for days!
  2. Nymphenburg Palace was built in 1664 to celebrate the birth of a son to Ferdinand and Maria. The summer palace is gorgeous and famous for its Gallery of Beauties, the carriages and sleigh that belonged to Bavarian rulers and wonderful palace gardens.

    Nymphenburg Palace Munich Bavaria Germany

    Nymphenburg Palace Munich by www.schloesser.bayern.de - Bayerische Schlösserverwaltung

  3. The Olympic Stadium was built for the 1972 Olympic games that were held in Munich and include the pool where Mark Spitz won his 7 gold medals! The grounds were built on a former airfield that was transposed into a state of the art Olympic venue including a large hill made of rubble from WWII.
  4. The Residenz is the former residence of Bavarian Kings and the Wittelsbach Dynasty until 1918. Today you will be amazed at the Renaissance building with Rococo interiors. On display are the jewels and crowns of the Wittelsbach along with many silver and porcelain artifacts.
  5. The center and heart of Munich is the Marienplatz. This mostly pedestrian only area was created by Henry the Lion and is a fantastic place to sit and enjoy a beer and bratwurst! It is also home to the world famous Glockenspiel sitting on top of the Neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus. Kids and adults of all ages will be charmed by the lovely chimes and dancing figurines retelling Bavarian stories.
  6. Churches have been the center of communities for eons and Munich has its fair share. The best known symbol of Munich is the Frauenkirche. Built in 1468, it is the largest Gothic basilica in Southern Germany and home to the tomb of Ludwig IV of Bavaria. For the grandest views over the city climb the tower of Munich’s oldest church, Peterskirche. The Baroque jewel, Asamkirche, houses a very ornamental grotto and wonderful ceiling frescoes while the largest Renaissance church in Munich, Michaelskirche, houses the crypt of Maximilian I and Ludwig II.

    Munich City Centre Bavaria Germany

    Munich`s city centre by BAYERN TOURISMUS Marketing GmbH

  7. Beer Halls and Beer Gardens are a staple in Munich and probably the first thing people think of when thinking of Munich. The passion for beer is definitely alive in Munich and there are many options for enjoying your favorite brew and singing along to Bavarian songs. But if you’re in Munich during the summer or warmer weather do not miss the Beer Gardens! This is where Munichers go after a busy day at the office and a great place to feel like a local.
  8. The Viktualienmarkt has been supplying fresh foods to residence since 1807 and is one of my favorite places to wander! This wonderful food market has over 140 stalls full of fresh fruit and produce, handmade jellies, bread, pastry, meats and more. Yes, there is even a beer garden!
  9. If you’d like something a little more relaxing maybe some time in one of Munich’s many Gardens & Parks is needed. Munich is home to palace gardens of Hofgarten and Nymphenburg palace as well as a wonderful Botanical garden. The largest and most popular garden, Englischer Garten, is the place to stroll, ride bikes, rent a paddle boat or even surf!

    Englischer garten Munich Bavaria Germany

    Englischer garten by LuxTonnerre

  10. Don’t even get me started on the Food! I can’t get enough wurst, frites, schnitzel, spatzle, pork knuckles, sauerkraut . . .
  11. Munich has many Museums to enjoy but the grand daddy of them all is the Deutsches Museum, the oldest and largest science and technology museum in the world. Sitting on an island in the Isar river is a huge museum that has amongst its displays an Enigma machine built during WWII and the first automobile. There are displays dedicated to transportation, aviation, mining, energy, physics . . .
  12. If this isn’t enough then go for the people. They are open, gregarious, smiling and the real heart of this wonderful Bavarian capital! 


    What’s your favorite thing to do in Munich?

InterRail: A Book Review

As I said in Four Reasons to Use a European Rail Pass, I think we all want to travel around Europe by train.  In the book “InterRail” by Alessandro Gallenzi the main character, Francesco, lives all our dreams.

As a young adult, Francesco decides to leave his home in Italy to travel around Europe using an InterRail pass. During his rail trip he meets quite a few people, some even become lifelong friends, and has an adventure full of intrigue.

Munchen Skyline Bavaria Germany

Munchen by Andrew Bossi

His first stop is Munich, Germany where he meets an interesting con man named Pierre who is the catalyst for most of Francesco’s intrigue and adventures.  It was during a party hosted by Pierre that Francesco’s intrigue begins when he is asked to deliver a package to someone in Amsterdam by Pierre’s wife.  Even though he did not know what is in the package, he agrees.

Francesco visits cities that are on many of our own itineraries:  Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, London and Rome. As he travels through Europe, the intrigue follows him and continues to build.  It heightens when an event in Amsterdam lands Francesco in the hospital and during a secret meeting with Pierre’s wife in the Père Lachaise Cemetery while winding his way back to Italy via London and Paris.

OudezijdsKolk Amsterdam Holland

OudezijdsKolk Amsterdam by Massimo Catarinells

While the intrigue of the book kept me reading, the parts that stood out for me was his ability to travel with only the clothes on his back, his trust of strangers, and the guts to show up at a station without a destination in mind taking the next departing train!

Now I don’t see myself traveling with only the clothes on my back and I don’t think I’d ever be quite as trusting of strangers as Francesco but I really like the idea of showing up at a train station without a plan and taking the next departing train.  In fact, that is on my personal bucket list.

Parliament at Sunset London England

Parliament at Sunset London England

“InterRail” is a work of fiction based on the InterRail trip taken by the author, Alessandro Gallenzi.  It’s a story about a young man who had enough courage to step out of his comfort zone to find himself and live the life he chose.  By stepping out of the safety of his home to travel he was able to gain the confidence and clarity he needed to make the choices that shaped his life.

How has travel helped shape your life?


Although I was given the book InterRail by Alma Books and asked to review it, all opinions are my own. Alma Books is also giving away a free InterRail pass to EU residents and there is still a couple days left to enter.  So mosey your way over to Alma Books to enter!

Munich – My Olympic Adventure

I don’t know about you but I am really looking forward to watching the Olympics which officially begin this Friday in London England! To honor this auspicious event, I thought I would dig deep into the archives and share some photos of the Munich Olympic grounds.

Olympic Village Munich Bavaria Germany

Olympic Village Munich

Way back in 1982 I took my first trip to Europe and my first stop was the wonderful capital of Bavaria, Munich Germany!  During this trip I decided to visit the Olympic grounds where, in 1972, Munich hosted the 20th and their second Olympic games.

Olympic Diving Pool Munich Bavaria Germany

Olympic Diving Pool Munich

Besides gymnastics, swimming and diving are two of my favorite events at any Olympics and 1972 was no exception!

Olympic Pool Munich Bavaria Germany

Olympic Pool Munich

Of course, I couldn’t miss the pool where the one Olympian that made my heart beat faster swam!  Mark Spitz won a world record 7 medals in a single Olympics in this very pool!  Each of his medals were also earned in World Record times.

Olympic Stadium Munich Bavaria Germany

Olympic Stadium Munich

My love affair with Munich, Bavaria and Germany started on this trip and the Olympic grounds were an enjoyable part of this memorable trip.

Have you visited any Olympic grounds?

These photo’s are shared as part of Travel Photo Thursday.
For more great pictures, check out Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Maybe I’ll see you there!

 

European Travelista’s 7 Super Shots!

I have been enjoying reading everyone’s entries to HostelBookers 7 Super Shots!  As I don’t consider myself a good photographer I was secretly glad that I hadn’t been asked to participate.

Then it happened. . .

Both Sabrina from Country Skipper and Courtney of Haunt Jaunts asked me to participate.  Feeling good to be included, I now had to find some photographs that were worthy of the project.

I started by thinking what photos represent.  Photos keep our memories fresh and alive. All it takes is a glimpse and we are whisked back to that very day experiencing that trip, event or the fun as if we were there now.  The photos we take are snapshots of our life.

After getting over my initial angst, I wandered through my memories and found some photographs that represent each of the categories.

Here is a photo . . .

. . . that takes my breath away

It is no secret that I love mountains, lakes and small villages.  While I find them all remarkable in their own way, Gruyeres Switzerland just took my breath away.Bucolic Gruyeres Switzerland

. . . that makes me laugh or smile

I actually had a little trouble with this one but then it dawned on me that the one that made me smile every time was this shot taken on my very first trip to Europe.  In fact, this one is a lot of “firsts”.  My first time to Europe, Germany, Bavaria, Munich.  I smile each time I see this much younger me sitting by a lake in the Englischer Garten and, yes, I’m enjoying my first beer in Munich.

Englischer Garten Munich Germany

Enjoying a beer in Englisher Garten's Munich

. . . that makes me dream

This shot of the French Basque countryside makes me dream about all of the less traveled, peaceful places I have been and will go to.

Basque vista Southwest France

Basque Hills

. . . that makes me think

Looking down on the way up the Jungfraujoch is a tremendous sight!  This lovely village nestled at the foot of the mountain makes me think about how amazing Mother Nature is. . . The beauty of Switzerland isn’t too shabby either 🙂On the way up Jungfraujoch Interlaken Switzerland

. . . that makes my mouth water

As I look at this picture my mouth is literally watering.  I can still feel the relief as I sat down at this table at Klosterbrau Brewery in Bamberg Germany.  I can also remember how ravenous I was and how wonderful this schnitzel, potato salad, green salad and beer tasted!Schnitzel at Klosterbrau Bamberg Germany

. . . that tells a story

Visiting the D-day beaches in Normandy is a must see. This photo, taken at the American cemetery, tells the story of all the Americans that died during WWII.  More than that, it tells the story of all the lives lost from all countries involved.American Cemetery Normandy France

. . . that I’m most proud of

Gothic Royaumont Abbey gets the distinction of being my National Geographic moment!  The lovely Abbey and its grounds are a serene respite to busy Paris.Gothic Royaumount Abbey near Paris France

 

Now its my turn to nominate 5 bloggers to participate:

Eurotravelogue

EasyHiker

To Europe with Kids

This is My Happiness

Downtown Traveler

 

Rules

  1. Choose a photo for each of the 7 categories above.
  2. Write a short description for each image.
  3. Write somewhere in your blog post: I am taking part in HostelBookers 7 Super Shots.
  4. Tell HostelBookers that you have participated and tweet the hashtag #7SuperShots

Nominate 5 other bloggers by including a link to their blog in your post.

Bucket List – European Style

Ah, the infamous Bucket List.  When Michael from EasyHiker asked me to share my “Bucket List” I was, honestly, a little overwhelmed.  Yes, overwhelmed because my list is quite large and I’m sure you don’t want to spend that much time reading this post.  How to cut it down?  Instead of sharing countries or cities I’d most like to visit I whittled it down to some European adventures I’d most like to enjoy.

In no particular order, here is a sampling of my Bucket List – European Style!

While thinking about my Bucket List, I realized I’ve actually shared quite a few of these already.  In Springtime Yearnings I shared my desire to Hike in Black Forest, Canoe along the Dordogne plus bike and taste wine near the Moselle River in Germany.  Italy’s South Tirol is still one of the places I would most like to visit.  The Dolomites are just too dramatic and picturesque to not see in person.

Here are more European adventures I’d most like to enjoy:

Bastille Day in Paris

Sharing this day of celebration with the Parisians would be fabulous.  I can only imagine the pageantry of the military parade down the Champs Elysees and the beauty of the fireworks with the Eiffel Tower as their back drop.

Bastille Day Fireworks Eiffel Tower Paris France

Bastille Day Fireworks by Lauren

Oktoberfest

Let’s see, I love Bavaria, Munich is one of my favorite cities and, in my opinion, beer is a food group.  So why wouldn’t I need to experience the Granddaddy of all beer festivals?  One thing I wouldn’t miss is the opening day parade. I hope they still roll barrels of beer down the street!

Cruising the Greek Isles

A lot of folks cruise the Greek Isles and while I want to join their ranks, I want to rent my own sail boat so we can steer our ship around the Aegean as we wish!  Enjoying the blue water, culture, sunsets and ruins while reliving mythology from the bows of our own little boat seems quite luxurious.

Samos Greece in Aegean Sea

Samos Pe-Sa

German Christmas Markets

About 2 months ago I shared one of my fondest birthday wishes in All I Want For My Birthday.  At this point in time, I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate my birthday than being in Germany visiting some of the magical Christmas markets!  Gluhwein, German trinkets and beer. . . need I say more?

Viennese Ball

Gliding and twirling across a dance floor at one of the amazing balls during Imperial Ball season in Vienna is one of things this girl dreams of.   Of course, I’ll be dressed to the nines in a full length formal gown complete with gloves and I will float across the dance floor thanks to those dance lessons I desperately need to take!

Ball Vienna Austria

Ball by moritz.schmaltz, on Flickr

Live in Europe
One of my fondest dreams is to live in Europe for at least 3 months.  I want to experience the culture and history that Europe offers.  I haven’t figured out where I would spend my time but I have a feeling a lot of it would be spent in some little Bavarian village!

Wachau Valley Danube River Austria

Wachau by jay8085, on Flickr

Somewhere along the way I will also stay in a Castle or Chateaux, enjoy a Tapas Crawl in Spain and wine taste in the Wachau Valley!

Well those are a few of the items that have made it to my European Bucket List.

 

Tell us a few of the items that have made it to your list!

All I Want For My Birthday . . .

Reading through the posts here on European Travelista you can very easily pick up on how much I love Germany!  So this next statement will not come as a surprise to many readers.  One of the things at the very top of my Bucket List is to spend my birthday enjoying the Christmas Markets in Germany!

What is probably most amazing is that I haven’t made it yet.  I’m even amazed by this fact but it is sadly true, I have not been to a Christmas Market in Germany or any other foreign country.  Now that we are in the Christmas market “season”, I have once again been dreaming about my visit!

Erfurt Christmas Market Germany

Erfurt Christmas Market by Neumann, Barbara

I am lured by the quaint stalls all dressed up in holiday splendor and the smells of baked apples, cookies, and gluhwein!  Of course another draw is the seasonal festbier.  Besides food there are nutcrackers, Christmas ornaments, hand carved nativity sets, hand painted blown glass baubles, music and much, much more!  It all has been calling me for too many years.

There is one problem, with over 2,500 Christmas markets in Germany which ones should I visit?

Of course I’m always up for a trip to Munich where you can enjoy daily live alpine music as you wander the Marienplatz or Nuremburg would be awesome with its medieval atmosphere and wonderful bratwurst and roast almonds.  Cologne would be magical with the cathedral as the back drop but I really want to experience some of the markets in smaller villages too and since Christmas traditions vary by region traversing the country would be special!

German Christmas Market in the Harz

Christmas Market in the Harz by Goslar Marketing GmbH

A journey to the east brings you to the Christmas market at Dresden, home to the oldest Christmas market in Germany.  Dating back to 1434 this market is named after its famous cake or stollen.  Look for carved wood items, pottery, lace and gingerbread all made by locals! Or maybe a trip to Lauscha which is the birthplace of the glass ornaments that decorate so many of our trees.  If a ride through the snowy countryside in an historical carriage pulled by a steam engine on the Harz narrow-gauge railway would be appealing, then a visit to Wernigerode and its timber framed houses may be for you.

Lubeck Christmas Market View Germany

Lubeck Christmas Market View by Kruger, Norbert

For a more nautical theme, head north to the markets in Husum or Rostock.  Romantics will enjoy the market at Glucksberg Castle where a decorated bridge leads across the moat to the courtyard where you’ll be enchanted by the more than 70 stalls sitting near the Christmas tree.  By the way, the castle is open to visitors too!  Or visit Lubeck for the Iceworld Snow and Ice Sculpture festival.

Trier Germany Christmas Market

Trier Germany Christmas Market by Cowin, Andrew

Traveling west brings us to Schwalmstadt where you will find a Christmas market steeped in fairytales!  Schwalmstadt is where the Brothers Grimm wrote some of their stories, including “Little Red Riding Hood”.  Enjoy needlework from local artisans and local food specialties.  Lanterns and candles make the market at Broich Castle seem very medieval!  Enjoy storytellers as they wander town reenacting scenes from the Nativity while sipping wine and mead.  For a very international market, stop by Rudesheim am Rhein.  The market in the old quarter contains stalls from 12 countries who share their Christmas customs with visitors!

Ludwigsburg Germany Christmas Market

Ludwigsburg Christmas Market by Ludwigsburg/Neckar Stadtmarketing u. Touristik GmbH

Southern Germany is home to the Romantic Road and there are many villages near Rothenburg ob der Tauber that would be of interest.  Busy Rothenburg is one of my favorite villages and I would love to see it all lit up and decorated for Christmas!  Others villages that may be worth a visit include Prien with its Christmas market on an island in the middle of Lake Chiemsee!  A trip around Lake Constance on the Christmas ship would be equally amazing.  Also luring is Altotting with is celebration of Alpine Advent songs complete with alphorns!

Whew, too many Christmas markets for one trip or maybe even a lifetime!

 

What German Christmas markets can you recommend?

My Travel ABC’s

Before Thanksgiving I received an invitation from Katherina  of 1000 Miles Highway to participate in the A to Z survey about travel called The ABC of Travel!

Thanks Katherina for including me!

Now, European Travelista’s ABC’s of Travel.

A: Age you went on your first international trip: At 23 I made my first international trip to Europe which was also my first solo trip and is still my favorite!

B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where: The best foreign beer I’ve had was at Stiegl Keller in Salzburg.  If I’m honest, I’m not sure why it is my favorite but I think it might have something to do with the amazing views of Salzburg or the fantastic meal I enjoyed. Whatever the reason, it was memorable!Schnitzel at Klosterbrau Bamberg Germany

C: Cuisine (favorite): Mexican Food!  I love it spicy and could eat it for every meal.  While in Europe, my favorite cuisine would have to be German.  Can’t get enough of schnitzel, spatzle, sausage and sauerkraut or goulash soup 🙂

D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why: Bavaria Germany holds a special place in my heart!  This was my first stop on my first trip and Bavaria just feels so comfy to me.  I can’t seem to get enough of the mountains and tiny Bavarian villages. My least favorite would have to be Budapest which just left me feeling Bleh!  Although I am going to give it another try.

E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”: This summer I had the unexpected opportunity to witness Lederhosen clad goat herders bringing the goats back to the barn! An event I thought only lived on in books.

F: Favorite mode of transportation: Ooh that’s hard.  I actually like all modes of transportation and have used them at different times.  Trains, buses, cars are all amazing and offer different perspectives.  I guess my favorite mode is via an airplane because when I get on an airplane it means I’m going somewhere!

G: Greatest feeling while traveling: The feeling of awe when seeing amazing scenery, experiencing the peace and serenity of mountains, flower bedecked houses or realizing how old the city or building really is.

H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to: Ixtapa, Mexico during July!

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where: Once we were eating at a café in Paris and we had a great waiter.  He would joke with us (yes it was Paris France) and when we asked what type of Dijon mustard they had on the table he gave us a bottle!  It’s the little things that make a difference to me.

J: Journey that took the longest: Driving through Austria and Switzerland during my 2 week honeymoon!

Kathe Wohlfahrt Rothenburg Germany

In Front of Kathe Wohlfahrt Rothenburg Germany

K: Keepsake from your travels: I love buying Christmas ornaments from any where I travel because I get to relive my travels while decorating the tree with my family!

L: Let-down sight, why and where: The Terror Museum in Budapest. This museum left me wanting more. . . much more.  Upon entering you hear intimidating music, see an old Soviet tank and busts of some of the more notorious characters of the soviet period in Budapest.  I was expecting many more items of torture and not the narration in Hungarian I got.  The museum was really very stark without many exhibits of actual devices of terror.

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel: My first trip to Europe in 1981 filled me with a love of Europe that has lasted to this day!  I love traveling anywhere and am the one that does all the research and planning for trips no matter where we are going.

View from room at Palace Hotel Lucerne Switzerland

View from Palace Hotel

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in: My personal budget doesn’t include luxury hotels very often but I do enjoy luxury when I get it.  The nicest hotel I have ever stayed in would have to be the Palace Hotel in Lucerne Switzerland!  I had a corner suite which had amazing views of the lake and mountains surrounding this lovely city.  My next choice would have to be the Hotel Del Coronado in Coronado, California. I love old historic hotels and my room in the old portion of this beauty was perfect.

O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?: I’m not sure I have an obsession but would have to say amazing views usually from or of mountains!

P: Passport stamps, how many and from where? Oh if only they consistently stamped my passport!  Many places in Europe including London, Paris, Biarritz, Toulouse, Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna, Zurich and Copenhagen.  Add in Mexico and Tahiti.

Biarritz Seaview France

Biarritz

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where: The Alligator Farm in Buena Park, California.  I loved this spot as a child since those alligators were really scary but alligators right across the street from Knots Berry Farm?!!

R: Recommended sight, event or experience: Spend a day in Auvers sur Oise (outside Paris) reliving Van Gogh’s last days, then visit the Orsay museum to view his art work!  This will make an art lover out of anyone!

S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling: Local food, but not at trendy fashionable restaurants, including beer, wine or local cocktail!

T: Touristy thing you’ve done: A tour including the Changing of the Guard in London.  Couldn’t see a thing but I went back early in April and was able to visit on my own and see the entire procession without any one in my way!

U: Unforgettable travel memory: Visiting Zermatt Switzerland for the first time!  This charming village took my breath away.  Explore the village and mountains during the day and then enjoy an exquisite meal of fondue that night.  It is so warm and comfy!

V: Visas, how many and for where? To date, I haven’t need any visas 🙁

W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where? So I don’t remember what type of wine we had  but my husband and I had some great Italian red wine in Stresa overlooking Lago Maggiore!

Hohenschwangau Bavarian Castle

View from Hohenschwangau

X: eXcellent view and from where?: Ooh there are a lot of great vantage points.  How about the amazing views from Neuschwanstein castle or the top of Mt. Pilatus?  Or the view of Paris after climbing the stairs at Notre Dame!  Or locally, the view of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge from Fisherman’s Wharf.

Y: Years spent traveling?: I have traveled my entire life if you include some vacations.  Unfortunately, my life has not afforded me the opportunity to spend years abroad . . . yet.  That is on the bucket list!

Z: Zealous sports fans and where?: I am not a zealous sport fan but my first ice hockey game was very memorable.  My friend got tickets about 4 rows from the glass which makes for an exceptional game.  I didn’t know I had so much testosterone in me!

 

Well that’s my ABC’s, I would love to read the ABC’s of these fine bloggers:

Inside Journeys
Devour the World
Adventures with Ben
A View to a Thrill
EuroTravelogue

Easily Save Money While Traveling

Many cities in Europe offer tourists a city card which includes discounts or free admission to many of the local museums, castles, tours and some even include transportation.

Munich has one.  London has one.  Paris has one. Prague has one.  Innsbruck and Salzburg both offer one too!Eiffel Tower Paris France

Have you ever wondered if they are worth purchasing?

During my trip this summer I purchased cards in both Innsbruck and Salzburg and I can definitely tell you that the answer to the question is a definite . . . maybe!

Let’s look at the details of what they offered.Innsbruck Card Innsbruck Austria

The Innsbruck Card says it offers “free entrance to all museums and places of interest in and around the city.  Plus free use of cable cars, local public transport services, the “Sightseer” city tour bus and the “Kristallwelten Shuttle” bus, discounts on shopping, sports and fun.”

Due to my schedule I only had about 24 hours to enjoy Innsbruck on my own so I purchased a card for 24 hours which was 29 Euros.  It is important to note, these cards are good for 24 hours from the time you start your touring and not just 1 day.Innsbruck Austria

During my 24 hours I was able to visit the Hofburg, Hofkirche, Schloss Ambras, Swarovski Kristallwelten and the Nordkettenbahnen plus the buses getting to/from both Schloss Ambras and Swarovski Kristallwelten.  If I had purchased each of these separately I would have spent 64.50 Euros.

So in Innsbruck my 29 euro expenditure was worth every penny!

 

Salzburg Card Salzburg Austria

The Salzburg Card includes “. . . free admission to Salzburg’s museums, free use of the Fortress funicular, the Untersberg cableway, Salzach ship service and public transport. Salzburg Card holders can also take advantage of a number of discounts on concerts, theater performances or excursions to destinations in the Salzburg vicinity.”

I decided to purchase a 48 hour Salzburg Card for 34 Euros.  While in Salzburg not only did I visit many of the sights included for free; Hellbrunn Palace and Trick Fountains, the Catacombs, Hohensalzburg Fortress and Cable Railway, Residenz Gallery and State Rooms and the Stiegl Brauwelt; but I also used the bus system fairly extensively getting to my hotel, Hanger 7, Stiegl Brauwelt, Hellbrunn and Augustiner Beer Gardens.  If I had not had the Salzburg Card I would have spent 58.70 Euros.Hellbrunn Palace and Trick Fountain Salzburg Austria

Again my expenditure was worth every penny!

Besides the savings both cards afforded me I enjoyed not waiting in line for tickets, not needing to carry so much cash, and the transit systems were very easy since I was able to get on the bus I wanted.

So why did I say they were maybe worth purchasing?

While in my case both cards were worth purchasing but every traveler or city may be different.  My advice is to look into the cards beforehand knowing what you would like to visit. Also make sure you temper your wants down a bit because reality can be a totally different thing! This is the only way you can see if it makes financial sense to purchase the cards.

I have heard that people don’t recommend purchasing these cards because the savings is only a few Euros.  I disagree.   Even if I had not saved any money on these cards, the ease of use at each site or transportation was well worth it, in my humble opinion!

 

Have you purchased any city cards?
Did you think they were worth it?

Off the Beaten Path – The French Basque Region

I have been fortunate to travel in some wonderful areas of Europe.  Some  are the tried and true tourist areas and others are lesser known and less traveled areas, at least to Americans.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit one of these “off the beaten path” destinations in France. The French Basque Region is an area not regularly frequented by Americans.  I find it interesting that Americans tend to spend their time in more well-known destinations – Paris, Rome, Florence, London or Munich – but don’t venture to some of the lesser known areas. I really have no clue why this is but wonder if US travelers view their European trip is a once in a lifetime event and must cram as much in as possible and, therefore, only hit the highlight.  Or is it because they are trendy spots and ones they must visit or they are just not “with it”?

No matter the reason, I truly enjoy getting “off the beaten path” and enjoy areas not on the usual tourist track.   It is one of these that I want tell you about.

I had the pleasure to spend a week in the French Basque region specifically the area between Bayonne and St. Jean de Luz a few years ago with the French Government Tourist Bureau. This trip was busy and I didn’t get do some extensive exploring but I definitely came away wanting to spend more time in this beautiful less traveled area.

Basque vista Southwest France

Basque Hills

The Southwest corner of France, from Bayonne to St. Jean de Luz, offers something for everyone. Whether you want beautiful beaches or rolling green hills, sleepy villages or towns of international renown; you can find it all in this striking region. The coastal villages offer dramatic sandy beaches, fishing ports, beautiful architecture and storied histories.

Bayonne France

Bayonne

Bayonne is the capital of the region and is known for its narrow streets, cathedral and chocolate. Bayonne was the first city in France to make chocolate  dating way back to the early 1600’s. Wandering the streets will offer ample opportunities to sample the wonderful chocolate of Bayonne.

Biarritz Seaview France

Biarritz

Once a whaling village, Biarritz is now a resort to the rich and famous. Biarritz was the summer home of Eugenie and Napoleon and you can still see the impact of this in the stunning Hotel du Palais. Biarritz offers shopping, scenic views, museums and more. You will enjoy wandering the charming old town. After enjoying the sights which include a lighthouse and a Chocolate museum, you may want to spend some time in the casino before turning in for the night.

St Jean du Luz French Basque region

St Jean du Luz by marsupilami92, on Flickr

St. Jean de Luz is an enchanting town offering a sandy beach, picturesque harbor, outdoor cafes, architectural gems and a quaint town square. St. Jean de Luz is another great strolling town with beautiful narrow streets.

Basque Farm in Southwest France

Basque Farm

The French Basque have a well preserved culture and once you start moving inland you sense a more Basque feel to the environs. Moving inland you will find rolling green hills, peace and quiet, tradition and villages called “most beautiful villages in France.”

Scenic Basque Country France

Scenic Basque Country

Driving inland you will meet charming villages like Ascain, Sare and Ortillopitz. The storybook quality of this area make drives through the region an amazing journey. The discoveries you will find include churches, distinctive Basque architecture, lush countryside, vineyards, farms, pilgrimage routes and spectacular vistas. If you are a walker, you will be able to find many walking routes.

This section of France left a definite impression on me and I intend on returning.

 

What “off the beaten path” destinations have impacted you?